06 February 2016

Arinze Onuaku Replaces the Injured Malcolm Thomas

Arinze Onuaku
The Meralco Bolts suffered a setback in their 2016 Commissioner's Cup campaign after their import Malcolm Thomas sustained a knee injury. Fortunately, the Bolts were able to make a last-minute replacement ahead of the opening sccheduled on 10 February 2016.

Thomas said he hurt his left knee after their tune-up game against NLEX Road Warriors last 3 February 2016.

"We're going to have to replace him," Bolts coach Norman Black told Spin.ph after their tune-up game against GlobalPort. "It's a pretty serious injury."

"It’s a setback," he added. "It's something we didn't want to happen, but there's not much we can do about it except to react to it and move on, try to get an import here as quickly as possible."

Black, though, has immediately found a replacement in Arinze Onuaku (Ah-rin-zay On-ooh-ah-koo), an NBA D-League veteran who last played in Israel for Maccabi Tel Aviv.

Onuaku, 27, averaged 17.5 points, on 62.2 percent shooting, and 12.2 rebounds in 41 games in the 2015 season for the Canton Charge of the NBA D-League before the Minnesota Timberwolves signed him on April 2015 for the rest of the season. He was named to the NBADL All-Star Game for the third consecutive season.

Onuaku was signed by the Indiana Pacers on 5 September 2014 after playing with their NBA Summer League team. He was waived by the Pacers on 25 October 2014.

The 6-foot-9 forward played in three games for the New Orleans Pelicans and two games for the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2013-14, averaging 0.6 points and 1.6 rebounds in those five games.

In May of 2014, he joined the Chongqing Flying Dragons for the 2014 Chinese NBL, and averaged 28.6 points and 14.8 rebounds in 19 games. Onuaku averaged 14.8 points, on 62.8 percent shooting, and 10.1 rebounds for Canton in 2013-14 and 12.6 points and 9.5 rebounds for the Charge in 2012-13.

Onuaku went undrafted in the 2010 NBA Draft after a four-year career with Syracuse University where he averaged 9.2 points and 6.0 rebounds in 134 games. He finished his collegiate career first on Syracuse's all-time field goal percentage list at 64.8 percent (540-for-833).

Onuaku, the import pursued by San iguel last year, is expected to arrive on 8 February, just two days before the Bolts open their campaign against Star at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.

Black remains upbeat, having seen progress from his squad, which finished dead-last in the Philippine Cup after losing all but one of their 11 games.

"We're moving a lot better than last conference, offensively and defensively," the American coach said. "The teamwork is a lot better. We're rebounding the ball a lot better, so we’ve definitely improved.

"The new players seem to be more comfortable with the system now, and the only thing left to do now is to get a very productive import to support them."

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